STE safety and legal director Greg Smith told the health, safety and environmental community gathered for the Industrial Foundation for Accident Prevention’s Fluoro Conference in Perth last week that most of what was spoken about in the safety industry was “abject bureaucracy” created from an industry trying to professionalise itself.
“The reality is that within health and safety we spend an enormous amount of time creating data that tells us absolutely nothing,” Smith said.
“What we are doing is paying employees an extraordinary amount of money to produce a database of evidence that demonstrates we are not complying.”
However, Adam Mroz, general manager HSEQ of onshore oil and gas construction, optimisation and intervention services firm Condor Energy, told Energy News there’s more to it than that.
While Mroz, who also addressed the conference, conceded Smith’s comments were “brutal”, there was more than a kernel of truth there.
He said it was human nature to measure things that are easier to measure, thinking that somethings are useful which in fact aren’t.
Then there is the well-known idiom that statistics can be skewered to say just about anything.
“While LTI rates are definitely important because we don’t want people having lost time injuries, the wise people out there know that it is but one measure,” Mroz said.
“Having too much focus on LTI will potentially take our attention, time and effort away from other things.”
“Human factors” – a subset of the science of how humans interact with the systems and equipment that they operate yet – is something Mroz believes the oil and gas industry is not focusing on enough, as some workplaces can contribute to people making mistakes.
“If you’re busy, tired or have too many things going on, you forget things, like in any aspect of life. That happens to workers too. They might have performed a task quite competently many times before, but on this one occasion, they get it wrong,” he said.
“That’s an area that the safety fraternity still isn’t focusing on enough. NOPSEMA is trying to push it, the onshore regulators not so much, but I think there’s a lot more work to be done in that area.”
That said, Australia’s onshore oil and gas industry has evolved over decades to the point where workers are taken care of relatively well, being provided with good accommodation, food and internet.
The importance of that can’t be overstated, Mroz said, because workers who can sleep and eat well and communicate with home are more likely to be able to stay focused on the job and not make mistakes.
“There are many other things other than LTIs which are harder to measure, like organisation culture – how the people feel, because happy people are going to make less mistakes,” he said.
“That overlaps with HR and operations. There is some really good anecdotal evidence and starting to be some hard research evidence that shows those companies that conduct HR surveys to see if their workers are happy actually have lower incident rates, and have less catastrophic incidents down the track.
“So focusing on keeping your workers happy ensures they have their mind on the job, so they’re not always thinking about finding another job or some other thing that might be hopping through their head.”
Add Energy CEO Ole Rygg, who was on deck to help BP deal with its 2010 Deepwater Horizon fallout, told Energy News last month that industry had learned plenty about the importance of getting the message clear from the board right down to the rig floor about safety and the consequences.
However, while this is crucial, Mroz suggested that a lot of incidents could be prevented just by ensuring workers enjoy their job.
“If we can focus on the things that keep our workers happy without necessarily going overboard with it – we don’t need to beat Google and have piles of Smarties in the corner and beers every day – but if we can keep our workforce happy and focused then things will go better,” Mroz said.
“You still need to know whether you’re hurting workers or not (in LTIs), you just don’t want to have a myopic focus on it.”